Ramsay Snow and Vlad the Impaler

ramsay-snow

Ramsay Snow ©HBO.

dracula

Vlad the Impaler

History Behind Game of Thrones reader “BoredMe” suggested that Ramsay Snow and House Bolton may be inspired by Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. In fact, there’s a very entertaining thread on Westeros.org about this theory. Just for kicks, let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between the legendary Transylvanian warlord, House Bolton, and Ramsay Snow.

Ramsay Snow is, of course, Roose Bolton’s bastard, and he has shown a long-time penchant for torture. Ramsay is a greedy, ambitious, crafty sadist who, in the books, has repeatedly slipped beyond the reach of justice – often turning the tables on those who could have stopped him. In this regard, Ramsay is like Vlad who frequently tricked his enemies and devised clever ways to defeat them. [Read about Vlad’s childhood.] In the case of Theon, Ramsay tricks him into a false sense of security by pretending to be his friend and a lowly servant.

theon-ramsay-torture

Ramsay torturing Theon. ©HBO via Wikia

Both Ramsay and Vlad enjoyed waging psychological warfare on the enemy. In the TV show, Ramsay famously eats a sausage in front of the recently castrated (penectomied?) Theon. Vlad notoriously put a forest of 20,000 impaled corpses in the path of Mehmed II’s invading Ottoman army to break their will. It worked. The terrified troops refused to advance.

Ramsay resembles Vlad in that they both love torturing people and completely indifferent to women’s suffering. In the books, Ramsay attacks a neighboring house, House Hornwood, after discovering the lord and his heir had recently died. After he takes the keep, he forces Lady Donella Hornwood to marry him and then throws her into a tower to starve to death – which she does after trying to eat her fingers. When one of Vlad’s mistresses became pregnant, he had her belly slit open and then had her disemboweled.

Perhaps, not unlike Vlad the Impaler, Roose Bolton is not completely without standards – ironically, Roose is disgusted when Theon betrays Robb Stark. (Vlad strongly disapproved of adultery, theft, and sloth.) It is just that both Roose and Vlad’s standards often include tactics, such as flaying and impalement, that most people find abhorrent.

There are also some subtle similarities between Vlad’s childhood and that of Ramsay. Both had absent fathers who did not treat them well. As a child, Vlad’s father sent the boy as a hostage to the Ottoman Sultan, as a bond to ensure his loyalty. However, the Sultan was known to exact fierce penalties from those who betrayed him. Vlad’s father broke his oath to the Sultan and knowingly endangered Vlad’s life. Ramsay’s father was better, but just barely.

Ramsay is the product of sexual assualt; Roose raped his mother and was never married to her. In the ASOIAF novels, Roose Bolton sends Ramsay and his mother, who do not live with Roose, the smelly Reek as a passive-aggressive gift. Ramsay and his mother get a helper, but Reek has a permanent congenital body odor condition that makes him unbearable to be around.

As a child, in the novels, Ramsay bonded with Reek and they became partners in pain. It’s unclear who corrupted whom. Reek is a necrophiliac, and in some ways, he resembles Renfield, Dracula’s sidekick in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Renfield is not a necrophiliac, but he is obsessed with death and does enjoy killing and eating flies.

Does Ramsay resemble Vlad the Impaler? You be the judge. Read more in about Vlad, his sick torture techniques, and his dark childhood in “Dracula: Impalement, Punishment by Proxy of His Brother’s Lover?

By 

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

4 Comments

  • Reply March 5, 2014

    PatW

    Another real-life contributor to the Bolton characters might be Gilles de Rais.

  • Reply March 5, 2014

    Jaime Adair

    Wow, I didn’t know anything about this guy. According to Wikipedia, Gilles de Rais fought with Joan of Arc in the Hundred Years War and then retired to become a child serial killer – killing possibly hundreds of children!! Gilles de Rais might have even been the inspiration for Bluebeard! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilles_de_Rais
    Great comment! Thanks!

  • Reply December 24, 2014

    Ioana

    Well, as a Romanian I’m forced to say something about this 😛 . Although Vlad Tepes isn’t one of the nicest figures we left for posterity we do appreciate him very much. In a period which was utterly devoted to pain, suffering and sinister torture methods, Vlad did what had to be done in concerning the criminal majority. As in all the people who were impaled were either thieves, or criminals of a sort, which was very frowned upon during his rule and he made absolutely clear that was the case, either Ottoman, which was basically what happened in the crusades, except in the crusades it wasn’t Muslims who started killing innocent Christians but the other way around. And seeing as we were the gate towards western Europe, we were pretty much subject to one military incursion per every five years, which was a huge strain: everyone poisoned the wells, burnt up the fields and retreated to the mountains (that’s why we have no buildings left from the 1500-es). I’m not saying that I condone medieval torture, I’m just saying that in Vlad’s case it was meant as an example to others whereas in Ramsay’s case it was just for shits and giggles. So the point is, even though Vlad might have been a psychopath/sociopath, clearly Ramsay was more than that – he gathered pleasure from killing and torturing his victims so that clearly points to sadism as well.

    • Reply December 26, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      You know, you make a great point. In many cases, Ramsay’s acts of torture were purely for his own sadistic pleasure and sometimes contrary to his family’s overall strategy (think: Theon). In contrast, Dracula was the last bulwark against Ottoman invasion – and protecting your people against conquest is always an important cause. I can’t help but think but think that Dracula enjoyed his work a little too much. But as you point out, there is another side to his story. Thanks for this excellent comment.

Leave a Reply